As the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group co-chairs continue to spin their wheels in their efforts to settle the Karabakh issue, armed with the mantra that there is only a non-military solution to the Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev continues to escalate the war rhetoric in an echo chamber where there is no opposing response.
The main focus of the OSCE co-chairs — the US, Russia, France and the UK — is the Karabakh conflict, and yet, President Aliyev goes over their heads to claim Armenia’s territory as well.
The first such claim was made on February 10 when he was addressing his New Azerbaijan Party Congress.
Many in Armenia as well as around the world dismissed that statement as harmless election campaign rhetoric. However, he reiterated these claims on March 19 in his Novruz (new year’s) message to the Azerbaijani people. He promised to return Azerbaijanis to Yerevan, Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province and the area around Lake Sevan, describing those territories as “historical Azerbaijani lands.”
He concluded his speech by stating, “This is our strategic goal and we must gradually move to achieve that goal.”
To lay claims on a neighbor’s territory is a declaration of war in international law. As many countries reserve the right to make a preemptive strike in similar situations, Aliyev has provided ample legal base for the exercise of just such a right. But the situation in the Caucasus is too complex to resort launch a tit-for-tat response.